Government confirms Option C - a tunnel east of Gravesend - will be route of Lower Thames Crossing
PUBLISHED: 13:04 12 April 2017 | UPDATED: 13:59 12 April 2017
The announcement has been made - ending months of speculation. It's delight for the people of Dartford - but agony for those in Gravesham
The government has officially backed a £6billion crossing east of Gravesend as its preferred route for the Lower Thames Crossing.
The planned route will run from the M25 near North Ockendon, cross the A13 at Orsett before crossing under the Thames east of Tilbury and Gravesend.
A new link road will then take traffic to the A2 near Shorne, close to where the route becomes the M2.
Expected to reduce the burden on the Dartford Crossing, government figures suggest the bored tunnel could carry up to 4.5million heavy goods vehicles in its first year.
Transport secretary Chris Grayling said: “We are making the big decisions for Britain. The new Lower Thames Crossing, and other improvements in and around Dartford and Thurrock announced today, will further strengthen our economy while also creating thousands of jobs.
“Our £23 billion investment into our roads is already making a difference, with schemes being completed across the country, including the M1 Catthorpe junction and A556 at Knutsford, cutting journey times for millions of motorists.
“The schemes announced today not only show we are taking decisions, we are planning upgrades and we are completing roads – making the lives of millions of motorists better.”
Last year a consultation on the crossing became the largest ever for a UK road project, gaining more than 47,000 responses.
Bob Lane from the Lower Thames Crossing Association was one of a number of campaigners who vehemently opposed the proposal of Option C.
He told us he was “under no illusions” Option C would be chosen: “Highways England have hoodwinked the government with their biased consultation, if you looked through the consultation questionnaire there wasn’t a single mention Option A
“The government have missed out on a once in a generation opportunity to fix problems at Dartford.”
But in its announcement, the government revealed £10million has been set aside for improving traffic flow at Dartford, and will look at tackling rat running around the town.
Dartford MP Gareth Johnson welcomed the news.
He said: “This is possibly the most significant decision affecting Dartford in a generation. It is not only the right decision for Dartford but also for the whole country.
“Many of us have worked hard, often behind the scenes, to convince the Government that it would have been wrong to locate another crossing at Dartford and funnel more traffic in to the area and on to roads that can’t cope as it is.
“It would have been catastrophic for Dartford if we had lost this argument. Locating the Lower Thames Crossing east of Gravesend is the right approach and I am pleased the government has agreed. This decision gives motorists a choice and will provide resilience for the road network.
“It will of course take approximately ten years to complete and so we will not experience the full benefit until then but the prospect of having hugely disruptive roadworks in Dartford over the next decade has been lifted.
“In the meantime the secretary of state has announced plans for £10 million to be spent in the area on measures to ease some of the existing problems. Nobody is claiming this money will completely remove the current problems but they should provide some benefit. In addition, Highways England will continue looking at ways to improve the flows of traffic across Dartford whilst the building of the Lower Thames Crossing takes place.
“I understand this decision may not be welcomed by residents in Gravesend but we will do what we can to ensure the impact on the environment is limited.
“For more than a decade there has been uncertainty about where this crossing would be placed. Now the decision has been made we must get on with the task of building it.
“Dartford residents have suffered misery on the roads for years and I am convinced this decision will mean a better future, with less congestion and less pollution.”
Christian Brodie, chairman of South East Local Enterprise Partnership (Selep), said: “This is excellent news for Kent and Essex and will have a significant economic impact. The investments announced will strengthen the resilience of our UK and European connections – imperative as we now move towards Brexit.
“However, the benefits go far beyond Kent and Essex. With the current Dartford Crossing already operating at capacity and freight traffic continuing to grow, the new crossing will also support the government’s wider economic aspirations for the Northern Powerhouse and Midlands Engine.”
Tim Waggott, Port of Dover chief executive, added: “The port handles up to £119 billion of trade or 17 per cent of the UK’s trade in goods and is vital to the UK’s trading relationship with Europe - our largest and nearest trading partner.
“With freight traffic through Dover growing by a third in only four years and with a forecast 40 per cent growth in freight traffic by the end of the next decade, it is essential that traffic fluidity is maintained and enhanced on this key trade corridor connecting the rest of the UK with mainland Europe.
“The Lower Thames Crossing is an essential ingredient of the strategic infrastructure mix required to deliver national economic prosperity. The port fully supports today’s announcement by the government and warmly welcomes its commitment to keep the nation’s traffic and trade moving.”
Paul Spooner, Ebbsfleet Development Corporation’s interim chief executive, said: “We are pleased the Government is in favour of Option C, the option we have always said is essential to the housing and economic growth of the north Kent area as it will divert significant volumes of national and international traffic, most notably freight vehicles, away from the A2/M25 bottleneck.
“This option , along with our integrated transport plan will ensure that Ebbsfleet Garden City achieves the Government’s priorities of significant new housing and sustainable growth. In addition to future improvements on the A2 at Bean and Ebbsfleet, we want to upgrade the Fastrack bus system and deliver new pedestrian and cycle routes to encourage more non-car journeys, as well as building the case for Crossrail to be extended to Ebbsfleet International to boost overall growth and take pressure off the road network.”
A spokesperson from Gravesham Borough Council added: “At present we are digesting the announcement and technical material that is appearing on the Highways England website. We will be considering the impact the announced route will have on Gravesham’s residents and environment and pressing hard for measures to mitigate the most harmful aspects of the selected option.”